The Choice of Area
The Girard Estate business district wedged between Passyunk Avenue and Oregon Avenue has changed over the last twenty years. Businesses have come and gone, buildings have come and gone, but the Girard Estate neighborhoods surrounding it seem not to have changed. Recently, the investment company Cedar Realty Trust has shown interest in developing the business area of Girard Estates into a mixed-use area of businesses and housing. Using a 1922 Sanborn insurance map and Map Warper, I wanted to see if there was precedent for the blurring of business and housing in this area during the last century.
Using Map Warper
Map Warper as a tool was easy to use after a few attempts (see failure below), and Sanborn insurance maps made available by Penn State were easily accessible. This particular Sanborn map of the business district in Girard Estates was challenging because the only enduring structural references were two sets of row homes in the northeast corner of the map. Street intersections were used as additional points to rectify the maps. When they were finally in alignment, the maps offered information and posed questions.
It should be noted that the maps were created with separate intentions. The Sanborn map was created with insurance in mind. It denotes buildings materials, fireplugs, location of fire and police stations, company names as well as neighborhood names, road names, and park names. The Map Warper map indicates only the names of roads and location of unidentified parks, parking lots, and buildings. To understand what is there, additional resources are necessary.
Switching back and forth between maps, historians would find evidence of stability and change between 1922 and the present. These maps indicate that residential areas that existed in 1922 remain. Row homes between S. Bucknell Street and S. 23rd Street, including the district police station and fire department that served them, are still standing. Additional row homes have been added to their west and new residential streets have been created, but none of the homes from 1922 have vanished. Historians might be pushed to explore what industries created this demand for housing and led to the stability of residential housing in the area. It is possible that the oil industry or the naval yard had an impact. Historians might investigate the changes in transportation, such as the decline of rail use, and its impact on the area. As the city became less reliant on rail lines and those lines were removed, row homes were added in their absence on S. Bonsall Street and S. 23rd Street. Where a rail depot once stood, new houses and apartments were constructed. The rail lines that once dominated the west side gave way to an interstate highway. Historians might also note the changing businesses and consider how they reflected what was happening at the time. It is possible that in 1922, the kilns and warehouses of the Philadelphia Brick Co. and Leuten Brick Co. dominated the business district because newly constructed neighborhoods in an expanding South Philadelphia created demand. When the expansion waned, was it possible that the business district gave way to stores that fed, clothed and served the daily needs of the population?
Comparing 1922 to the present, it became clear that businesses in Girard Estates have changed but a business district remains. Business and housing did not merge in significant ways, but housing did replace areas of business. Therefore, Cedar Realty Trust’s intention to put housing in the business district of Girard Estates has precedent, but the mixture of the two is unique.
Google My Maps
This map displays the home locations of every Olympic cycling champion of the men’s and women’s road race from 1896 to 2016. At the outset, I was interested in where Olympic champions lived and trained, but once the locations were mapped, social, political and economic questions began to arise and new interests began to take shape.
Although women have been encouraged to ride bicycles since the late 19th century, road cycling for women did not become an Olympic event until 1984. Why? Five nations, the United States, Australia, Great Britain, France and the Netherlands, are home to women’s champions. What does this say about gender issues in these countries and in others? The Netherlands has a disproportionate number of champions. Is this related to the country’s dependence on bicycle commuting?
Colored icons divide champions into three eras: pre-Cold War, Cold War, and post-Cold War. After I mapped the champions until 1936, the majority of Olympic champions hailed from a western Europe. Why? Did France, the Netherlands, or Italy have roads more suitable for biking than the rest of the world? Were these countries paving roads or creating smoother road surfaces? During the Cold War, champions from the Soviet Union and its satellite nation East Germany won three times in twenty-eight years. Was this because of economic prosperity, improved infrastructure, a nation-wide interest in cycling, or did the Soviet government support cycling programs to compete with the West?
Europe was devastated by war from 1939 through1945. How did western European countries recover their cycling dominance so quickly. Where did cycling clubs get their financial support, and was European cycling affected by the Marshall Plan? Australia and South Africa, former member states of the Commonwealth, have champions. Was there a connection between Great Britain’s wealth and culture and Australia and South Africa’s cycling success? Was and is cycling cost prohibitive in countries without champions because they lack bicycle manufacturers?
It was difficult to show changes over time using this map. Colored icons made it possible to indicate general time periods, but when shown all at once it was confusing. I also wanted to separate men’s champions and women’s champions, but was unable. It would be beneficial to remove and add icons at will. This was probably possible, and the fault was probably the map’s creator.
The benefit of this type of map is the questions it conjures. It begs you to make connections between the place and objects or events. This can be done without this type of map, but it would take more time and familiarity with the material for that to happen. Google My Maps makes complicated spreadsheets or pages and pages of written material easier to digest and quickly calls forth questions for consideration.